With two words, Andrew Snyder accepted Paul Hamilton as his legal husband in a media-filled ceremony on Friday, June 28, in San Franciscoliterally hours after DOMA was defeated and the Supreme Court ended Prop 8, the California constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage.
Snyder was holding Hamilton's hands and staring misty-eyed at his partner of 14 months. Jared Scherer, who was officiating their ceremony, asked Snyder if he took Hamilton to be his lawful-wedded spouse.
Snyder replied, "Fuck, yeah!"
Laughter ensued, and the two Chicago residents hugged and kissed. Scherer then declared them, "partners for life."
"I was very aware that I was sitting on the cusp of history right then and right thereour history and history of the world around us. That felt good," said Snyder, who drew more laughter from the onlookers after their near-five minute ceremony, filled with media and complete strangers, when he said, "Thanks, everybody."
"We were, and are, traveling in this little sweet spot in the universe; it's like it was just supposed to happen."
The Snyder-Hamilton love affair is a short story, rooted in, well, an online meeting that could have just been a one-night affair. But both were instantly smitten.
"The first time he came over, I looked at him and said, 'This is going to be a good connection," Snyder said. In fact, the first night they met, each confirmed he was single and a first official date was planned.
On their third date, Snyder revealed he was falling in love with Hamilton.
On their fourth date, Snyder gave Hamilton a set of keys to his apartmentand the keychain featured the phrase that they decided early on was and is the theme of their relationship. It says: Fuck Fear.
The two started talking about getting married and having kids within six months of knowing each other.
Snyder, 44, is a creative director for August Jackson. He is a Zionsville, Ind., native who has lived in Chicago for about 20 years.
Hamilton, 48, is a pianist, composer and film maker. Originally from Savannah, Ga., he has lived in Chicago for about 17 years.
Each was once married to a woman.
Hamilton had been in Northern California and Snyder arrived on Tuesday, June 25. By the time they woke up on that Wednesday, then spent a few minutes catching up with the world via Facebook, they learned of the major changes nationally for same-sex couples on the marriage front.
"I wanted to propose right then," Hamilton said, but instead they decided to celebrate.
Ultimately, each proposed to the other, with Snyder doing so first, at Cypress Grove.
They called family and close friends to update their engaged lives.
Then, back on Facebook, they updated the worldwith a photo of their hands, each with a ring.
They arrived in San Francisco on Friday, June 28, and it wasn't long before they were in a cab heading to City Hall, but "with no expectations," Snyder said.
"By the time we got there, we knew we were going to get married," Hamilton said.
They got out of the cab and were immediately greeted by local and national media following their every step.
Complete strangers were cheering them just walking toward City Hall. Locals applauded, both gay and straight supporters.
Two protestors tried to dampen the spirit, unsuccessfully.
They were given roses and photographers offered their services, for free.
They ultimately applied for the married license, but not before joking with each other about who would pay.
When their time came, Snyder said the media onslaught was "crazy," and he admits he was "kind of scared" due to all of the media.
There were at least 20 cameras (still and video), including some shooting for documentaries. There were at least 50 people watching their short service, most also taking pictures or video with their cell phones.
"It was a bit intimidating," Snyder said.
"It didn't bother me at all," Hamilton said.
Five minutes later, their lives were united.
"It was so emotional, though I was so focused on Andrew, other than when talking to and listening to Jared," as he was officiating the service, Hamilton said.
Before leaving City Hall, the newlyweds spent a private moment together, reflecting.
They left City Hall and again were cheered by complete strangers.
Hamilton then saw a protestor and approached him, though not saying anything. Hamilton simply stared. "Anything he was saying was not affecting me at all," Hamilton said.
The two then took a cab to the Castro to celebrate and for dinner.
The next day, as others made the trek to city hall in San Francisco to tie the knot, Snyder and Hamilton returnedto volunteer however needed, as others did for them. They also brought flowers for others and watched at least 10 couples get married.
Heading back to Chicago, they were holding hands and kissing at San Francisco International Airport. Snyder still recalls that lasting moment. "I kept thinking, 'Wow, this is my husband,'" he said.